10 Things to Do in Montreal in the Winter
Mocktails, skates and Spice Girls burlesque
It’s cold as heck in Montreal, but your calendar is about to heat up: The city is giving us plenty of reasons to leave the house this winter, and we’ve rounded up 10 of the best.
Visit a food hall
Good to know: Waiting for a table in sub-zero temperatures (and the many layers of clothing required to withstand them) is a fool’s game. Luckily, a cluster of food halls arrived in Montreal just in time for winter, so it’s easier than ever to plan a spontaneous meal.
With 700 seats and 25 different outlets inside, Le Central stands at the corner of Saint-Catherine and Saint-Laurent. For breakfast, sample doughnuts from Trou de Beigne; later in the day, warm up with a bowl of noodles and miso-infused broth from Ramen Misoya. The Time Out Market Montreal—located inside the Eaton Centre—has offerings from all your local faves, including Olive et Gourmando, Foxy, Moleskine and chef Normand Laprise (Toqué, Brasserie T), who aimed to perfect the humble hamburger at his Burger T! concept. The newest of the bunch is the elegantly designed Le Cathcart at Place Ville Marie, which includes glass ceilings and an indoor garden.
Where to go: Le Central, 30 Saint-Catherine West, lecentral.ca; Time Out Market Montreal, 705 Saint-Catherine Street West, timeoutmarket.com/montreal; Le Cathcart Restaurants et Biergarten, 1 Place Ville Marie, lecathcart.com.
Take a dip in a hydrotherapy bath
Good to know: When your joints start aching from your icy commute, it’s time to book a spa day. Therapeutic baths can help with everything from mental health to muscle pain, so they’re a must-have tool in your winter self-care kit. Our fave Montreal water circuits use contrast hydrotherapy, which means you start in a hot tub or a sauna, then shock your system with a quick dip in a cold pool or shower, then spend some quiet time in a designated relaxation area.
For a pre-work bathing sesh, try Scandinave Spa in Old Montreal. It’s open from 7:15, offers a special rate for local workers and has quick-drying Dyson hair dryers, so your blow-out won’t freeze when you step outside. For a girls’ day, hit Bota Bota. This oh-so-Instagrammable spa is set across several decks of a permanently docked boat in Montreal’s Old Port. For a change of pace, visit Strøm Nordic Spa on Nuns’ Island. With its slick, modern architecture and quiet surroundings, it’s like a wellness retreat without the jet lag.
Where to go: Scandinave Spa Vieux-Montreal, 71 de la Commune West, scandinave.com/vieux-montreal; Bota Bota spa-sur-l’eau, Old Port of Montreal, McGill Entrance (Corner of De la Commune and McGill), botabota.ca; Strøm Nordic Spa Nuns’ Island, 1001 Boulevard de la Forêt, stromspa.com.
Hit the trails
Good to know: Montreal’s uneven terrain can be murder on your glutes this time of year, but there’s an upside to all the hills: This city is a paradise for sledding and tabogganing. If you’ve already got something to slide on, sledding is usually free; some of the more popular slopes rent equipment, too. Generally considered the best spot in the city for sledding, Mount Royal Park has different runs to choose from, depending on your comfort level. Bois-de-Liesse, a ridiculously pretty nature park in the West Island, also has a couple of fun hills.
Imagine Van Gogh
Good to know: Featuring over 200 works by the Dutch post-impressionist painter, Imagine Van Gogh has extended its Montreal run until April 5. The immersive, hour-long art exhibition uses music and projection technology to change the way audiences experience familiar paintings like Sunflowers, Cafe Terrace at Night and Starry Night Over the Rhône. If you’re going with a group, be sure to coordinate in advance: A limited selection of tickets is available per time slot. (They start every 30 minutes.) Note that you can stay as long as you like once you’re in. Tickets cost $21 for students, $26 for adults.
Where to go: Arsenal Contemporary Art Montreal, 2020 William Street, imagine-vangogh.ca.
Lace up your skates
Good to know: Whether you’re secretly the next Tessa Virtue, or only in it for the rinkside hot chocolate (hi, it’s us), gliding around Montreal’s many outdoor skating spots is just as fun now as it was when we were kids. For a more grown-up night out, visit the Old Port skating rink on a Thursday, when local DJs take over the musical programming. If you’d rather save some cash, the rink at Parc La Fontaine is free to access, although there are additional fees for skate rental and any winter gear you may wish to purchase on-site.
Where to go: Old Port skating rink, Bonsecours Basin, Old Port of Montreal, oldportofmontreal.com; La Fontaine Park skating rink, La Fontaine Park, 3933 Avenue du Parc La Fontaine, patinpatin.ca/en/lafontaine-park.
Small Mouth Sounds
Good to know: Running from February 9 – March 1, Small Mouth Sounds is a quirky theatrical production that takes you on a silent retreat with six total strangers. When we say silent, we mean *silent*—as in, the play is more or less wordless, relying instead on physical performances and an intimate set design to build emotional connections with (and among) audience members. The resulting experience is both funny and intense, and it’ll make you question everything you think about self-care. In the words of Segal Centre Artistic and Executive Director Lisa Rubin, “It’s unlike any show you’ve seen before.” Tickets cost $25 for students and under-30s, $45 for general admission.
Where to go: The Segal Centre for the Performing Arts, 5170 Chemin de la Côte-Sainte-Catherine, segalcentre.org.
Spice Girls Burlesque
Good to know: Grab your besties and say you’ll be there: A Spice Girls burlesque show is coming to the Wiggle Room on March 27. Turn up early for the venue’s 7:30 p.m. happy hour; performers start slamming it to the left and shaking it to the right at 9 sharp. The line-up is still TBA, so we can only speculate on which of our fave nostalgic hits will make an appearance, but can you even imagine a burlesque performance of The Lady is a Vamp? We honestly can’t wait. (Pro tip: if you do plan to make it a squad night out, get in touch with the venue to reserve a table.) Tickets cost $25 in advance, $30 at the door.
Where to go: The Wiggle Room, 3874 St. Laurent Boulevard, wiggleroom.ca.
Good to know: Dry January may be over, but Montreal’s best non-alcoholic cocktail menus are still going strong. That’s great news for everyone—especially this time of year, when even Montreal’s biggest natural wine stans are cutting back on booze to combat the winter blues. With so many creative low- and no-alcohol drink options across the city, an alcohol-free night out makes a fun twist on your next cinq à sept. (Bonus: it’s also the best way to ensure that your sober friends feel included.)
Tucked inside the Queen Elizabeth Hotel, Nacarat is the kind of plush, perfectly lit space that warms you from the inside out. There’s no separate mocktail list here: Look for the 0% options among the bar’s signature drinks. At Stillife, a speakeasy in Old Montreal, a short but sophisticated “No ABV” section includes a non-alcoholic interpretation of a classic martini. We’ll take two.
Warm up your sweet tooth for maple season
Good to know: Maple season is just around the corner, which means we’ll soon be packing up for weekend excursions to our fave cabanes à sucre, AKA sugar shacks. If you can’t wait until April for your first taste of maple candy, don’t stress: A few spots are getting things started sooner this year, including the Apple Sugar Shack at Labonté de la Pomme in Oka (February 29 – April 26) and the urban sugar shack at La Scena (dates TBA, March–April).
Montreal en Lumiere
Good to know: Running from February 20 – March 1, this classic winter festival celebrates food, art, culture and—of course—light. Most of the festival’s major attractions are set up around the Quartier des Spectacles; these include exclusive culinary tours and experiences, dance and musical performances, and interactive outdoor light installations. If you only make it to one event, make it Nuit Blanche on February 29. With hundreds of mostly-free activities and an expected attendance of around 300,000, this all-night party seems to bring the entire city together. (Pro tip: The metro’s open after hours, so you can party-hop as long as you like.)
Where to go: Quartier des Spectacles, Place des Arts metro station, montrealenlumiere.com.